A aerial view of the Otford Solar System model taken from Maps Live (position
51º 18′ 55″ N, 000º 11′ 16″ E)
Recently one of the Sydney Observatory staff members Allan Kreuiter, currently at the Powerhouse Museum, while on a tour in the UK visited the little village of Otford that is home to a large model of the solar system. Here is his report:
Otford is a sleepy village in the middle of Kent UK, it has a population of around 4000, a remarkable duckpond in the middle of its roundabout, a champion under 13 cricket team… and a model of the Solar System that stretches around the world! You get to Otford by driving down the A225 South East of London travelling successively windier and smaller roads, and then if you search around you can find on the far end of a muddy soccer field, a series of plinths with planets on them.
Ground view of some of the planet pillars of the Otford Solar System, image Allan Kreuiter
The planets are set-up in their orientation as of January 01, 2000 (which they claim incorrectly is the start of the Millennium) and on each plinth is a scale representation of solar system objects The scale is 1:4,595,700,000 (ie 1mm = 4,595.7km). I first found Jupiter by (literally) stumbling over it at the corner of the field. It looked like a little marble and it had an arrow that pointed at the Sun about 100metres away. Walking closer to the plinths we saw the Sun model that would have been a sparkling metal dome, had there been any sunshine in England.
Allan with the Sun pillar, image Allan Kreuiter
Earth had the Moon on the same plinth as an engraved dot, and the other planets were similar. We looked in vain for Saturn and the outer planets, including asking the locals most of whom did not know the model was there at all, and finding out later that Saturn was in a surgery carpark while the rest were scattered around footpaths within a kilometre of the snowy field. As the (real) sunlight was failing and the clouds and freezing wind promised more snow we left the Solar System stopping only to read the sign that said that there were three more components to the model to scale: a model of the closest star to our own, Proxima Centauri at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, a model of Barnard’s star in the Falkland Islands museum and Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, at our own Sydney Observatory.
Yes, the Sirius model is at Sydney Observatory, but not yet on regular display. Maybe soon….